Pacific garbage patch changes insect mating habits — what’s next?


Researchers pulling netting, plastics from the Pacific Ocean

Marine insects in the Pacific Ocean are changing their reproduction habitats in response to environmental changes from the accumulating amount of rubbish in the north Pacific subtropical gyre, also known as the great Pacific garbage patch…

The patch has increased in size 100 times since the 1970s, including its swath of microplastic particles of less than 5mm diameter. The marine insect Halobates sericeus, a species of water skater, is now using the microplastic debris as a surface to lay its eggs, said a study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography…”We’re seeing changes in this marine insect that can be directly attributed to the plastic.”

Miriam Goldstein was part of a graduate student team, the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (Seaplex), which travelled to the patch to study its environmental impact in 2009. The study compared the group’s findings to data from the early 1970s.

The Seaplex team found that water skaters typically lay their eggs on floating objects like seashells, bird feathers and pumice, but the change to plastic could have “ecosystem-wide consequences”. The insects are an important link on the marine food chain, plus predators like crabs rely on their eggs as a source of food.

Increased quantities of microplastic could…mean population growth of the water skaters, and more pressure on their prey zooplankton and fish eggs, according to the study.

Debris from the patch has had an impact on other marine life, including ingestion by fish and invertebrates at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tonnes per year, according to Scripps. It also transports pollutants and has introduced alien species into new areas.

As long as cruise ships aren’t diverted from their money-making schedule I can’t imagine that anyone with authority will feel challenged by this discovery. Conclusions about health and safety of any species – including our own – doesn’t really mean much to our politicians, short-sighted pundits and, most critical, the investing class that accepts news and information redefined as entertainment.

3 thoughts on “Pacific garbage patch changes insect mating habits — what’s next?

  1. Eureka says:

    “Origins of Giant Ocean Garbage Patches Revealed” http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/origins-of-giant-ocean-garbage-patches-revealed-140902.htm “…according to a newly published study in the journal ‘Chaos’ by University of New South Wales, researchers have developed a computer model to help figure out where all that the trash is coming from. See “How well-connected is the surface of the global ocean?” http://web.science.unsw.edu.au/~froyland/OceanConnectivity_subm.pdf Re: Ekman layer and dynamics see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekman_layer

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